Assistant Treasury Secretary Touts Economy

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It's tough going on the GAC stage as a former banker, but former investment banker-turned-Assistant Treasury Secretary Emil Henry knew he could rely on the Administration's support of the CU tax exemption to warm up the audience for him.

Since his boss, Treasury Secretary John Snow, had already voiced that support the day before, Henry instead focused on offering a Wall Street perspective on the state of the nation's economy.

"I am pleased to tell you that the economy is so robust on so many levels that the skeptics are fewer and quieter," Henry said. "They have been muted by the facts."

Those facts include: GDP is up 3.5%, some 4.6 million new jobs have come online since May 2003, unemployment is at 4.7%-that's lower than even at the very peak of the go-go economy of the late 90s.

And all of that, he said, is in spite of some of the hidden economic problems George Bush inherited: the inevitable bust of the bubble economy and the scandals at WorldCom and Enron, for example, which were then exacerbated by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"This was the plate the president was handed," Henry noted. "He is fighting hard to make his tax relief permanent, and despite what the naysayers said about what would happen if we cut taxes, the tax receipts at Treasury have been the highest they have been in the history of the Treasury, and that's in the face of a tax cut."

Among the other topics Henry touched on: a new forum for consumer protection issues is being created, data security and identity theft, and regulatory relief.

And of course, when, toward the end of his speech, Henry reiterated Treasury's support of the tax exemption, the crowd stood up and cheered, to which Henry said, "Oh, so you care about that. That's a surprise."

He followed that up by reminding CUs to aggressively lobby their lawmakers for support on the exemption, adding, "The world does belong to the aggressive."

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